I just did a blog entry about memes, and it reminded me of another meme I came across on Facebook. It was a close-up picture of Morpheus, from the movie The Matrix, and the caption read “What if I told you….it is possible to be an animal activist without posting graphic pictures of animals suffering” or something very similar.
I responded that while it certainly is possible, the graphic pictures serve a purpose. I know from my own personal experience that it was graphic pictures from slaughterhouses that made me become a vegan. I really didn’t understand the depths of the suffering in those places, and once I did, I could no longer be part of that in any way.
If those pictures worked on me, you can damn well be sure they work on others. So, no, they won’t disappear from Facebook anytime soon.
I also mentioned that if the pictures bothered people so much, then those people should honestly ask themselves why. I KNOW why they bother me—I feel hopeless, impotent despair because I cannot single-handedly stop the suffering. Even being vegan won’t make it stop—I am only one person, and it’s not enough. That rips at my heart.
But people who are not vegan who see those pictures and are uncomfortable with what they are seeing should question their feelings. If the images make you sad, or angry, WHY do they do so? Is it because you really don’t think those things should be happening to the animals? If you don’t, then why are you still participating in the system that does that to animals? Why are your actions not in line with your principles and feelings about animals? Is convenience and palate pleasure REALLY worth that suffering?
It’s tough to be confronted with truth that shifts your whole world and turns it upside down. I KNOW this, as I went through it when I became vegan. I, too, once ate meat. I had convinced myself I was an “animal lover”, but I ate them, wore them and didn’t really give much thought to them whatsoever. When I saw the graphic pictures, I was confronted with the fact that the truth could no longer be overshadowed by lies I was telling myself. It was like being turned inside out. I was heart-broken. I had thought I was such a good, animal-loving person, but just look what I was part of! How could I claim to love them and then let those things be done to them only because I liked how they taste? What kind of person did that make me?
The pictures made me question what my values actually are. What means the most to me: having animals brutalized and killed simply because they taste good and I like to eat them, or acknowledging that animals do not deserve to be used that way for my own selfish wants? I had no NEED to eat animals—I just liked to. Was that a good enough reason for the things I was seeing? What about the people doing those things? What was it like for them? What was the impact on them of killing hundreds of animals a day who want to live? Did those people go home to their families angry and hopeless, smashing down the ugliness that all that death and pain causes? Who was really profiting off my consumption habits? Me? Everything I read stated the opposite. The animals certainly weren’t profiting. So who was? Big industry, people who work really hard to keep images like the ones I had seen secret. Why were they so worried about people seeing those pictures? If what they do to animals is perfectly acceptable and nothing to get sad or angry over, then why is industry so desperate to keep people from knowing?
These were all questions provoked by those pictures. So, YES, they play an important part in getting people to understand reality.
I also responded that I thought it ironic that whoever made the meme chose to use that picture. In the movie The Matrix, Morpheus is the one who awakens Neo to reality. He shows Neo that the world Neo knows is an illusion—reality has been hidden from him by those who have opposing interests, and he has remained completely oblivious of this fact. Morpheus offers Neo a choice: he can take the blue pill and go back to sleep, remaining blissfully ignorant of what is really going on in the world, or he can take the red pill and awaken to reality, and maybe actually do something about it, to make things better.
The irony was staggering, all the more because it was completely unintentional! We ALL need to take the red pill. We all need to be honest, open our eyes and start making decisions about what we value. But people keep taking that damn blue pill.
I firmly believe that people need information to make important choices, choices that accurately reflect their values. If the reality of animal exploitation is hidden from us, how can we ever make informed choices that align with our values?
How can this not matter to people? Is the siren call of blissful oblivion really that powerful?
Becoming vegan was a painful experience for me—I won’t lie. But as is often the case with pain, you move through it to a better place. You learn, you grow and you define yourself that much more clearly. Being vegan isn’t about self-righteousness and “telling others what to do”. It’s about aligning our actions with the beliefs we hold most dear in our hearts. I am not forcing justice and compassion down anyone’s throat—it’s there, inside most people, waiting to be embraced. So what’s stopping you?
If graphic pictures help people to come to terms with the effects of their actions, then graphic pictures have a purpose and a place, and we should not hide them to make people feel better about animal exploitation.
Consider those pictures your red pill, and wake up.